Here's some expert guidance from Michael Guest about catching bass: one of Australia's premiere sportfish.
The Barrington Coast is home to one of - if not my all time favourite - fish and that’s the Australian bass.
There are plenty of bass fishing options in this region: from the Karuah River that flows into Port Stephens, to the impressive Manning River which completes its long journey at Harrington. The majority of freshwater creeks and smaller rivers that interconnect with the major ones will all produce bass.
Bass travel huge distances from the foothills of the Great Dividing Range down to the saltwater to spawn and can be found in brackish conditions where the fresh meets the salt.
It’s this process of covering large distances and then fighting their way back against the current that gives bass great muscle tone and physique. These qualities make for a stubborn and tough opponent when it comes to light tackle sport fishing.
Bass are one of the premiere Australian sportfish, especially the wild natives, so catch and release is recommended.
There are several different ways to chase bass in their natural habitat. You can use a boat, kayak or canoe, but one of the simplest and most rewarding techniques is casting from the bank. Fighting your way through dense vegetation to get the perfect cast in and fool what can only be described as one of the best eyesight hunters that swims is a real challenge.
This situation is amplified with shallow clear water as they are sensitive to any deflection in the water’s surface tension above their heads. Native bass are still very much switched on to feeding on terrestrial insects along with other small reptiles, even baby birds, worms, maggots, the list goes on.
As a small food source splashes down, the bass’ senses come alive homing in for an immediate strike then retreating at pace back into a shadowy position tight against the cover. Bass love structure of any kind whether that’s a grassy bank, submerged log, rock face or low hanging shrubbery. These places make great bass pads, a place to chill out and explode at the right moment hopefully after your lure!
Some of my favourite bass adventures have been fishing from a kayak or canoe around Mount George on the Manning River. The best bet is to paddle upstream and then slowly work your way back down with the water flow.
There are many access points on the creeks and rivers of the Barrington Coast so I would recommend getting yourself a map. Make sure you ask for permission from the owners of the land you wish to fish some of the accessible bass creeks are on privately owned land. You’ll find more often than not if you do the right thing and ask the answer will be yes.
When it comes to tackle my choice is a 2000 size reel with 8 pound braid and 6-10 pound leader combined with a 2-5 kilo spin rod.
Now with lure fishing I would rather catch one bass on a surface lure than five sub-surface, so any chance I get I’m always working the top. The surface explosion that you get from a hungry bass crash tackling a lure is highly addictive. It also pays to have a variety of different presentations depending on water clarity, local food source, etc. Small poppers and walkers, bibless minnows, small bibbed deep diving and shallow running hard bodies, spinner baits and a variety of soft plastics pretty much cover my tackle box.
I generally like the natural colours in darker tones such as dark brown to black, though it pays to look at your surroundings. At one creek I fish regularly, the best lures are anything with bright green, yellow or gold due to a large population of green and bright yellow grasshoppers.
It goes without saying if you can hear cicadas buzzing everywhere then match the hatch. For a bit of fun try and catch a couple of live cicadas and spear them quickly into the water and watch the explosions happen.
Bass are sensitive to bright light so in the middle of the day they tend to hide in the shadows. Early and late then into the evening are the prime surface lure fishing times. Darker creeks with heavy canopies will often yield bass right through the day especially with accurate casting right into the dark places.
Once the surface bite slows down it’s time to rummage through the tackle box and find a lure that will reach the strike zone. On days when the barometer is low, the fish will be tougher to catch so slowly worked presentations such as soft plastics and spinner baits can be the key to success here.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to time your bass fishing to work in with the weather then you’re fishing will improve out of sight. A rising barometer will always yield the best success on all Australian natives and certainly bass. Stormy conditions where the barometer is rising and falling quickly will also provide plenty of rod bending action.
Bass are one of our premiere Australian sportfish, especially the wild natives. Catch and release is recommended to keep the population healthy for fishos in the future.
Good luck and remember to let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
And remember, you must know the fishing rules:
- There are fish size limits and maximum limits for the number of attended lines you can run; the number of hooks per line; plus daily limits and possession limits
- Only fish during the official bass season (1st Sep to the following 30th April)
- You’ll need a fishing licence to catch bass (unless you’re under 18 years of hold an Australian Government Pensioner Concession Card) that you can buy online or at Barrington Coast Visitor Information Centres.
Catch & release is recommended to keep the population healthy for fishos in the future.